This is the first in a series of guest posts from Michelle.
Michelle Lehnardt never folds laundry and her car is a mess. She runs through the streets of Salt Lake City, UT, takes lots of photos, plays Uno with her 5 fabulous boys and buys way too many dresses for the little princess. Her husband is the most romantic man in the world because he does all the Costco shopping AND hauls it into the house (sorry to make you jealous girls). She writes at Scenes from the Wild.
In California, I took a few portraits (sadly, not the family beach photos we’d hoped for) of my sister Ruth and her kids. “Soooooo,” she asked, “are you going to make a business of this?”
“Not yet.” I answered. “Right now I’m like a contestant on American Idol; my family and friends have told me how great I am. But once I get out there and really try to perform my inexperience is going to show. But yes, eventually, I’d like to do that.”
“Good.” Ruth paused long and pensively. “But don’t start a business or write a novel just to feel like you are an OK person. You are already OK. You are already enough.”
Unbidden tears sprang to my eyes. My 16 year old had expressed a similar concern weeks ago, “Isn’t being MY mom enough?”
Yes and no.
Once we get past the hazy, crazy baby stage most mommies I know need something more. For some it is something that directly applies to homemaking: cooking, parties, a spotless house, home decor, gardening, scrapbooking— and for others it is something else: school, art, charity work, sports, church and/or a full career.
Many of my friend’s blogs are contemplative right now (it must be the end of summer), “How much time can I take for me?” “What is success?” and I was frankly surprised to see the author of a photography blog I stalk mourn her 29th birthday (so young!) and the fact that she isn’t married with children. I would have thought running a camera bag business, traveling the world and being paid $15K just to bring her camera to your wedding would be enough. Maybe we’re all confused.
American women simply have so many options. If we were mothers struggling to feed our children in Africa we’d be happy with just a warm meal. But in our society that is constantly spotlighting superwomen who have babies, a career and manage to feed the children in Africa it’s hard to feel like tackling the laundry and getting spaghetti on the table is truly an accomplishment.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I certainly believe in the virtue of motherhood, but I also believe we can’t judge each other by how we choose to spend our time. My amazing friend Chelle is the PTA President at her local elementary this fall. Chelle is organized, intelligent and a natural leader. All four of her children are at the elementary this year which makes it an ideal season for her to serve the school. But upon her election, an acquaintance said to Chelle, “Oh, I would never be PTA President. I simply won’t take that much time away from my children.”
How unfair! If a mother isn’t the PTA president who will do the job? Someone’s grandma? A single girl in the neighborhood? If I need a doctor or a lawyer or someone to help me pick out new makeup I’m going to call upon a woman– I’m grateful they have honed their talents for my benefit.
Nothing is quite as delicious as snuggling with my little ones. But since they won’t sit on my lap ALL day, I’m not going to stop taking photos or writing. I have an insatiable desire to get better at both. It’s doubtful that I’ll make a career of either one anytime soon and you my dear friends will continue to be the hapless victims of my learning curve.
Hopefully I’m not using writing or photography or motherhood as the measure of my self-worth. I tell my kids that I loved them the moment they were born; I love them just for showing up. Maybe it’s time I tell myself the same thing.
So how do you do it my friends? How do you balance your own pursuits and your family? What do we choose in this beautiful life?